Saturday, May 8, 2021

Fratello Friday

And finally it was Friday, and I opted to make it a Fratello Friday by breaking into my box of Fratello DMV Maduro Selection cigars. I've been looking forward to trying them since I picked up the box last month. I selected a Virginia band for my first smoke from the box, then pouring some Angel's Envy bourbon I retired to the back porch.

The Fratello DMV series is a limited annual release from Fratello to honor the company's origins in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region. The December 2020 version features four different cigars; Delaware was added to the list a couple years ago. All the cigars for this release are 6 x 50 toros. The details of the blends are kept secret. While the binder and filler tobaccos are the same in all, four different maduro wrappers finish the cigars. In all, just 600 boxes were released.



I've long been a fan of Fratello, with a few of the original 2018 DMV Virginia and DC versions still holding a place of honor in my humidor. The torpedo shaped 2020 Virginia features a chocolate brown wrapper that is smooth and shiny. The initial draw was a little tighter than I prefer, but it soon loosened up. The cigar is medium bodied. The predominate flavors are wood, earth, with a touch of sweetness. A tiny bit of cedar crept in at the end. 




After the beautiful and warm spring weather last weekend, the past week was almost fall like, with cool air, and plenty of wind and rain. I eventually turned on the propane heaters just to take the edge off while I smoked. At one point the rain started and got heavy enough that I was getting some mist hitting me through the screen. However, I had the heaters situated just right, and opted to weather the storm, so to speak.

One aspect of the experience that stood out to me was the amazingly sharp burn line that held nearly the entire stick. I kept stopping to look at the cigar in wonder as the burn line was almost fake looking. Whether attributable to construction, happenstance, or a really lucky light, it was a sight to behold.




The previous years' "Virginia" vitolas featured a bolder flavor with more spice, while this version was more moderate, but certainly not mellow. I get bored quite quickly with really mild smokes, and this kept my interest. I enjoyed the stick down to the hot nub, finally risking one last puff that nearly burned lips and fingers.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the rest of the Maduro selections. I will pace my myself to not empty the box too soon, but I will certainly smoke rather than "collect" them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Saturday Pleasures

Last Saturday began with more purge-related chores, this time focusing on the garage. Even though I've stuck to my vow made years ago that our cars would be parked in the garage, the space for them as gotten ever tighter. After several hours of work, we had made significant progress. I am happy to say we can easily walk around the vehicles now, and the cars' proximity sensors complain just a bit less when entering the space. 

After a run to the local Goodwill shop (not all the unneeded items are being disposed of) we stopped for a much anticipated lunch. We were looking forward to the advertised "Burger of the Week" at Harry's Alehouse. The tasty burger was topped with creamy Parmesan-garlic sauce, crispy onion rings, and bacon, all served on a potato roll. But the most exciting part was that our Marxist-leaning governor has "granted" permission for his subjects to dine while seated at a bar for the first time in over a year. 

An appetizer of fried pickles, the burger, and refreshing beverages, enjoyed at our favorite seats, all combined for an extremely pleasant afternoon. I went back to an old favorite, Bell's Two Hearted IPA for my libation.



Arriving home, we headed to the porch to listen to music and relax, where I enjoyed one of my favorite smokes. I've written about the Black Label Trading Company Bishops Blend a number of times in the past. I had smoked the last of my stash of the 2020 release, but I recently picked up the last of the remaining stock at my local shop, so I get to enjoy this one a few more times. And enjoy I did, right down to the still tasty nub.



At the end of the day, we had a welcome sense of accomplishment, and relief, at the progress made in our purge project. That joy was magnified by the sense of normality of enjoying some tasty beer and food, all free from arbitrary restrictions and senseless rules.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Chores and Rewards

This past week we embarked on a long overdue "purge" of unneeded and unused items our house. After 21 years here, there was just too much "stuff' accumulated. We don't intend on moving anytime soon, but there are ongoing renovations to make room for. We rented a 20 yard dumpster and set about decluttering. 

Each afternoon or evening during the week, we spent time hauling items from the basement, the garage, and the storage area under the deck. It's a remarkably satisfying, if exhausting, process. Each day ended with aching muscles, and more than a few cuts and scrapes. The major lifting is complete, and the next few days will involve only tossing in some odds and ends before the container is hauled away. 



On Friday evening, after what seemed an extra long week, I headed over to 1781 Brewing for an Oliva Cigar event at the Olde Towne Tobacconist Lounge. There I took advantage of the promotion and picked up a box of one of my favorites, as evidenced here, the Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial Torpedo



I'm excited to smoke these, even if I did have to change the shelf layout in my small humidor to squeeze in the box. Among the freebies with my purchase, was this Oliva Serie G box-pressed torpedo. I opted to smoke it right away while I enjoyed a pint of 1781 Brewing Washington's Hare Porter. The cigar features a Camaroon wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and filler. Despite the ever increasing winds churning up, the box-pressed cigar burned well. The medium bodied sweetness of the cigar worked well with the porter. 

Despite the evening starting out around 70°, the wind and sudden rain shower quickly dropped the temperature to the low 50° range. Too cold for my short sleeved short, so I called it an early evening.


The clean up work continued through the weekend and beyond. However, there was still time made for more fun treats before the work week begins again. More to come on that soon.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Friday, Cocktails, and a Fratello

By lunch on Friday afternoon, I had in my head already my desire for the evening wind down. I often look forward a cigar and drink to kick off the weekend, but for some reason on this day, I was hankering for something specific. After dinner, it came to be. 



There it is. One of my few remaining "vintage" Fratello DMV Virginia cigars from the 2018 debut and a classic Old Fashioned.

This evening's Old Fashioned was prepared with Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon. I treated myself to two Luxardo cherries to go along with the slightly heavy-handed whiskey pour. Fortunately I remembered to make some "rocks" of ice during the week. 

The original Fratello DMV Virginia is one of my favorites. It has an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, an Ecuadorian binder and a blend of filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA. The 5 ½ x 52 stick is medium to full bodied with notes of roasted coffee, earth and some spice. After nearly 2 ½ years in the humidor, the wrapper still has a beautiful chocolate brown sheen. The flavors remain bold and stood up quite well to the strongly-flavored cocktail.



It's a little bitter sweet as a I watch my stock of the DMV Virginia dwindle. But, it sure is more enjoyable than just staring at them in the humidor.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

He is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Happy Easter!
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9

It's Easter, the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. Today marks the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Resurrection confirms that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. Easter is our reminder to be hopeful, and vigilant, never surrendering to evil.

The Prince of Darkness is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, and twisting the truth until evil is mistaken for good. The newly "woke" invoke his aid to create false guilt. Acquiescence to immorality is falsely promoted as "love and acceptance." All the while, morality and true love are deemed "hateful." Indeed, Satan's greatest trick is convincing the world that he doesn't exist. Through never ceasing attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, we witness the battle against evil that continues still. 

Yet today, the empty tomb reminds us that there is hope. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere. On this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. We must not acquiesce or even compromise. Diluted or relabeled, evil is still evil.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Mass at the tomb of Jesus
The Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Photo by Colleen, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2021

Limbo

A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Spring Weather and an IDPA Match

Last weekend we enjoyed what is often referred to as "false spring" in Virginia. The weather was warm, the humidity low, and the pollen count high. It provided near perfect conditions for shooting. (This week we are back to cold, windy and wet, and with pollen.) A smaller contingent than usual gathered for the monthly IDPA match at Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. As usual, five interesting and fun stages awaited us. 

As I plan to do for all of 2021, I was shooting the Compact SIG P320. I'm getting used to the 8 round count in the magazines when planning my stage runs, and psychologically, the lower round count forces me to stop including possible makeup shots in my plan.

The first stage we shot was a quick stage with three paper and one steel target. We began with the gun loaded with just three rounds. The first target required two hits to the body and one to the head. After reloading we moved to engage the remaining targets from cover. I shot the stage clean with a -0 run.


Another out of the ordinary start position was used on the next stage. We began facing up range with our elbows on a table, the unloaded gun was placed on a barrel behind us, and all magazines were placed on another barrel further down range. Seven paper targets were engaged from four points of cover among the walls. My "no makeups" stage plan bit me a bit here as I had a -3 hit one target that I did not make up, and finished -4 on the run.


Again, our next stage again offered more variation from normal. We saw a field of eight targets arranged across the bay, some hidden by barrels, high and low, with half being head only targets. The stage was shot in two strings. The first string mandated a single shot on each target, while the second string was shot support hand only, with shots to the four full targets. The starting position was the loaded gun in hand, with the barrel tip resting on the top of a cone placed mid-stage. 


The target placement was such that some movement was required to see all targets. Since the start was in the center we had to traverse most of the shooting area. On the first string, stepping to the left allowed one to see six targets, before moving to the right for the last two. Given the close proximity of the targets, most of the shooting could be done on the move. For the second, WHO string, I moved left to get the far left target behind the barrel, before moving across the stage and engaging the required targets. I was -1 on the stage, for a head shot just outside the center circle.

Our next stage again required the gun to be downloaded to six rounds, and placed on a table with the rest of our magazines. We started facing the right berm, a few steps from the table. After retrieving the gun, three targets were engaged. Grabbing a magazine from the table, we needed to reload while at the same time retreating up range. At the final point of cover, there were two more targets to be engaged. I shot this one -2.


The last stage was the only one with a full gun "normal" start, but it still added a unique twist. Four of the targets in the course were partially blocked by non-threats. On those targets, the head area of the threat targets were painted as hard cover. Even though head shots would typically be the safest as they were furthest from the penalty targets, they were unavailable for scoring.


Despite that extra challenge, I shot the stage -0, and it was actually my best overall finish of the morning. It was a fun stage, with lots of movement. I was relieved to finish the day on a high note.


It was a beautiful morning for shooting. Despite a cool start to the day, it warmed up quickly. I was a little overdressed but still comfortable. I even managed to acquire my first sunburn, though mild, of the year. I was generally pleased with my shooting. Even with the -3 hit, I was -7 total for the match. Despite that, I finished mid-pack, 17th of 31 Overall. I think I still move fairly efficiently, but have slowed over the years in finding the sights and getting the shots off. Perhaps a little more dry fire, or actual practice might help in that area. 

After a pleasant drive on country roads home, there was plenty of time to enjoy the mild weather with a cocktail and cigar on the screen porch. Couldn't ask for much more on that almost-spring Saturday.


For those curious, that's an Old Fashioned made with Maker's Mark Cask Strength paired with a Rocky Patel LB1 in toro.

Sunday, March 28, 2021